Two years after the release of ‘That Girl’, Jennifer Nettles is back with her second solo album ‘Playing With Fire’. “Since that time, I’ve found on my journey that I have a lot more to say than on the last album” said Jennifer about the new project. There is a real mixture of styles and sounds here, including a number of fun, pop-country tracks that will certainly appeal to the Sugarland fans, as well as more intricate, mellow songs that allow Jennifer to showcase her stunning vocals.
The title track ‘Playing With Fire’ kicks off the album, an electric guitar-driven rocker which wouldn’t be out of place on a Miranda Lambert album. Lyrically, it’s got such a rebellious feel to it and it’s full of attitude; an opportunity for Jennifer to show off her wild side. “I wanna flirt with my own fear, wanna dance with my desire, playing with fire”. A killer track that will surely be the opener for Jennifer’s live shows (which we are desperate to see in the UK!).
Jennifer’s latest single ‘Unlove You’ follows. A powerful ballad co-written with Brandy Clark, who recently opened for Jennifer on her ‘Playing With Fire’ tour in the US. The idea came when Brandy stated “you can’t un-ring a bell”, which inspired Jennifer to write the chorus about love and attraction outside of a relationship. In its first week of impact on country radio, it became the most added song. The way the song builds from a gentle guitar riff at the beginning to powerful instrumentation is gorgeous, and Jennifer’s stunning delivery truly conveys the pain felt by the person in question. Quality.
Other highlights include ‘Hey Heartbreak’, a catchy, up-beat pop-country song that could well be chosen as a single. It’s a song about breaking free from your troubles – “heartbreak I’m breaking up with you” will be stuck in your head! Another very radio-friendly track, and a return to the Sugarland kind of sound that brought Jennifer so much success.
‘Stupid Girl’ is superb, a clear stand-out. ‘Little Miss’ was always a personal favourite Sugarland track and the introduction on this track is so reminiscent of it. “I’m a seeker, an unholy holy rolling stone…and I might be stupid, but that stupid girl ain’t wrong”. A beautifully written track that will resonate with many people; written about somebody who is made to feel wrong for being themselves, repressed by society. It’s stunning, one of those that just hits you right from the first listen.
Another highlight is ‘Sugar’, which is about as catchy as it gets – a funky country jam that you could describe as ‘ear candy’ (I’ll get my coat). This is classic Jennifer, not afraid to expose her playful side, and the video to this track says everything! “They want my sugar and spice and everything nice and they’re begging for a taste of my cherry pie, but I ain’t never never never never ever gonna give em’ a piece”. A seriously infectious tune about keeping the boys away, produced by Dann Huff and co-written with Brandy Clark and Jessie Jo Dillon.
“That steeple still needs paintin’, they’re out there cuttin’ grass. There’s a two line Sunday sermon, she’ll miss ’cause she drives too fast. And the message on the marquee, reflected in the glass, is every sinner has a future and every saint has a past” – a masterclass in song writing on ‘Savlation Works’, clearly a personal one for Jennifer and one that carries a hard religious message. It’s saying that God “loves us more than we deserve”, when some might not always show the devotion to him that they could. Another stunning track that makes you sit for a moment afterwards just to take it all in.
The album finishes with ‘My House’, a duet with Jennifer Lopez. Don’t fear! There is still a country twang throughout and it’s such an uplifting song about people pulling together and being one big community. A great line in the song – “I’m Jenny from the dirt road”…”I’m Jenny from the block”! A fantastic way to end the album on a real high note; it could be a huge hit if released as a single. We’ve had it on repeat, you just don’t want the song to end!
This is a seriously impressive album from Jennifer. We’ve had the opportunity to listen to the latest ‘big’ releases from the likes of Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley, and in truth this is the best of the lot. Whether it will receive the success it so richly deserves is another question. It has so much radio potential from start to finish and the quality of the song writing in some cases will just blow you away. Well worth checking out!